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Updated: 17 hours 43 min ago

Conservatives launch campaign to help low-paid women

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 22:09

Penny Mordaunt to unveil initiative to help ‘every woman in UK do whatever she wants to do’

The government’s equalities department is to switch its focus away from getting high-paid women on company boards and towards helping lower-paid and unskilled women, Penny Mordaunt, the women and equalities minister, has announced.

Mordaunt will claim on Wednesday that there has been significant progress in closing the gender pay gap and getting more female executives on company boards, but women with poor skills and low levels of English were being left behind.

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Scrap juries in rape trials, Labour MP suggests

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 14:01

Ann Coffey to call for urgent inquiry to avoid ‘perfect storm’ where juries are reluctant to convict young men

Juries may need to be scrapped in rape trials because of the dominance of rape myths in society and “shockingly low” charging and conviction rates, the House of Commons will hear.

In a debate in parliament on Wednesday, Ann Coffey will call for an urgent independent inquiry into what she describes as “the crisis engulfing the criminal justice system’s approach to rape cases”. The Labour MP for Stockport will ask the government to examine whether juries are the best way to deliver justice in rape cases.

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The World Chess Championship is thrilling. But where are the women? | Alisha Matthewson-Grand

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 04:27

The focus on male stars such as Magnus Carlsen obscures the brilliance of female chess players. It’s time to raise their profile

This was the year that I, a lapsed chess fan, rediscovered my love for the game. You can’t fault my timing, for 2018’s World Chess Championship match between defending Magnus Carlsen and the challenger Fabiano Caruana is shaping up to be a close one. Yet my excitement (yes, chess can be exciting) is somewhat dulled by the continued lack of female representation at the world championship. The tournament is technically open to all, but not once in its 132-year history has the competition been won by a woman (though Judit Polgar competed in 2005).

Related: Magnus Carlsen springs Game 8 escape thanks to Fabiano Caruana's false step

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Eccentric women: why they are more important than ever in our oppressive era

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 02:00

From Janelle Monáe to Tilda Swinton, unconventional women are having a moment. In an age threatened by groupthink and strongman politics, they provide an essential antidote

Crazy. Feisty. Bolshy. Bossy. Hysterical. Sassy. Shrill. Spinster. Cat woman. Hag. Cougar. Frigid. Slut. Bitch. The English language has no end of words to describe women who don’t behave the way they are supposed to. They are all derogatory and almost none of them have a male equivalent. The most complimentary thing you can hope to be called if you are a woman who doesn’t conform to societal expectations is the E-word: eccentric.

While the idea of eccentricity is nebulous, it is an important barometer of society and women’s place within it. “The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour and moral courage it contained,” wrote John Stuart Mill in 1859. If that is the case, then I think we should be incredibly excited by the loud and proud display of feminist vigour running through popular culture. From Janelle Monáe rocking very unsubtle vagina trousers in the music video for her song Pynk to Marina Abramović’s provocative performance art, and TV shows such as Killing Eve and Sally4Ever that revel in weird women, female eccentricity is having a moment.

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Government reveals sweeping changes to boost women's economic security

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 10:30

Women fleeing domestic violence to get early access to superannuation, no-interest loans and may no longer have to face alleged perpetrators

Women fleeing domestic and family abuse situations will have early access to their superannuation, be eligible for no-interest loans and in many cases no longer have to face alleged perpetrators in cross-examination, under sweeping changes instigated by the minister for women, Kelly O’Dwyer.

O’Dwyer, one of the only women in the Liberal party to self-identify as a feminist, had previously stated she believed sexual harassment to be an economic issue.

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Cleavage is not offensive, but outrage about it certainly is | Chitra Ramaswamy

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 05:45

BBC Africa blurred a woman’s breasts over concern about the reaction in conservative countries. Such censorship objectifies female bodies

There is so much causing offence right now. Take your pick from Tory in-fighting about the draft Brexit deal; the discovery that Facebook employed a PR firm to undermine critics by claiming, among other things, that they were agents of the billionaire political donor George Soros; and whatever the president of the US said most recently. But sweep aside such everyday barbarities for a moment to consider where a woman’s cleavage falls on your personal umbrage scale. Is it more offensive to you than, say, the thought of Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson vying for Tory leadership? What upsets you more: the UN poverty envoy’s conclusion that the UK government has inflicted “great misery” on its people with its “punitive” and “callous” austerity policies, or the space between a woman’s breasts?

Executives at BBC Africa deemed cleavage objectionable enough to warrant blurring out, which has yet to happen to any number of offence-inducing politicians. In a documentary entitled Fake Me: Living for Likes, a Kenyan social media star called Glamour Pam was interviewed in Nairobi about her love of Instagram. During the interview, her “chest” was “muzzed”, to borrow the unintentionally hilarious words of one report. This is how we talk about women in the 21st century.

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Damien Hirst's gigantic uteruses are a bold correction to shocking ignorance | Hannah Clugston

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 05:17

Why the outrage? Hirst’s sculptures of uteruses for Qatar are a rare celebration of women’s bodies – vividly quashing art’s tendency to sanitise birth

As a child, I remember asking my mum where babies came from. Whatever she said left me with the distinct impression that it involved her eating some sort of magic egg. Later, after my sister was born, I drew a picture of a woman in a delightfully patterned dress, beaming as a baby popped down from between her legs. The “labour” of labour had clearly not been made known to me. The whole affair was shrouded in mystery.

In my 14 years in the education system I learned scarcely more of the female anatomy. It’s only with the arrival of apps such as Hormone Horoscope and Natural Cycles that I have finally managed to fathom out what that mystical “cycle” really means. And what a revelation it was to discover that what we refer to as the vagina is actually the vulva!

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I run a feminist group, but today I am celebrating International Men’s Day | Carys Afoko

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 23:00

We rarely tell positive stories about men and it’s time we stopped being part of a culture that vilifies them

Today is International Men’s Day – and I’m celebrating it for the first time. I have to admit I’ve taken myself by surprise on this one. If you’d told me I would be doing this a year ago I would have laughed in your face. Or assumed “celebrate” was code for “take the piss out of some arrogant dudes on Twitter”. Because feminists don’t celebrate International Men’s Day, right?

What’s changed since 2017 is that I quit my job to run a feminist startup. In other words, I took a huge professional risk and a big pay cut. Then, in April, my personal life began to implode. Work was going well, but that was the only thing that was. I started reading about Brexit and Donald Trump for light relief. I was a strong, confident woman who couldn’t admit she needed help. Asking friends and family for support felt needy. So I pretended everything was fine and most people assumed it was.

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Poverty exists. Shooting the UN messenger won’t erase that fact | Nesrine Malik

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 20:00
The government can’t go on dismissing evidence that its policies create a two-tier society with deepening divisions

When the then UN special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, visited the UK in April 2014, she had strong words of condemnation for the country’s institutional misogyny and sexist popular culture. She projected what many were familiar and frustrated with: the old boys’ network, the pervasive sexualisation of women, the black hole of human rights that women in detention were thrown into. But nothing happened. Instead the headlines bastardised an observation she made on how overt the UK’s sexist culture was, into “UN special rapporteur says UK most sexist country in the world”.

Media debates erected straw men, asking if the UK really was worse than Somalia or Saudi Arabia. Edwina Currie asked why Manjoo couldn’t “go to a country where women can’t drive cars, or have maternity leave? There are plenty of countries where women face serious problems.’’ One Daily Telegraph blogger argued that, not only is all well, the country is in fact, a “gynocracy” because we’ve had a queen since 1952. Politicians were glad of the misquoted soundbite, and the media was happy to go with it. What was completely missed was that, after a two-week investigation touring prisons and detention centres, and a 4,000-word report, Manjoo raised the alarm, pointing to the disproportionate impact of funding cuts on the provision of services to women and girls at risk of violence. She spelled it out: “Current reforms to the funding and benefits system continue to adversely impact women’s ability to address safety and other relevant issues.”

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Rear view: the big business of bottoms

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 02:00

As more and more women go under the knife in pursuit of curves, it’s clear they are paying with their health

The press briefing for October’s Clinical Cosmetic Reconstructive Expo in London was delayed – there had been another death. A cluster of journalists gathered on the mezzanine while below them visitors filtered past signs for She Lase and Zero Gravity Skin and a stand for a company called Eurosilicone that claims to have been “Empowering women for over 30 years”. At the far end of the conference hall, a woman was having her jawline enhanced with fillers in front of a rapt crowd; the Safety in Beauty stand was empty.

Back on the mezzanine, there was a rustle of suits as the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) entered the room. Apologies for the delay, one said solemnly, there has been another death. A second British woman has died this year after a Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL). Which made their announcement that they were henceforth warning surgeons not to perform the procedure particularly urgent. The brief was called “The Bottom Line”.

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Enough of the neurosexist bilge. It’s not all pink and blue when it comes to our brains | Catherine Bennett

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 20:00

There’s no genetic reason women should be disadvantaged in the workplace – unless someone is looking for it

In a week of dismaying news, there was a ray of sunshine: a scientific breakthrough with the potential to change lives. Men and women’s brains have finally been proved, by actual scientists, in a massive study, to be completely different! This, you gathered, was the substance of a prominently reported new study that made the front page of the Times: “Men and women really do think differently, say scientists.”

In another paper, the headline specified how: “The sex divide: female empathy vs male logic”. Dr Varun Warrier, of the research team, was widely quoted, saying: “These sex differences in the typical population are very clear.”

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Anya Hindmarch: ‘Trust yourself. Life is short’

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 03:59

The designer, 50, on channelling fear, the Queen’s brilliant curtness and her dad’s E-type Jag

You remember the times your parents were happy. It makes you happy. I remember sitting in the back of my father’s E-type Jaguar when I was very little. It was such a beautiful car – grey, with navy blue on the outside. My father was quite pleased with it.

If there’s one thing I would say to my childhood self, it’s trust yourself. Life is short, so take the risks. I always say to my children, go for it. Never be ordinary. Sometimes it’s important to be brave.

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Feminists gave Sheryl Sandberg a free pass. Now they must call her out | Jessa Crispin

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 23:00

Those feminists who were quick to embrace Sandberg should now publicly condemn her. Otherwise, they risk proving their critics right

The latest New York Times investigation into the goings-on at Facebook is less of a revelation and more of a reiteration of what was already on the record about the powerful platform: not only does Facebook have a problem with the dissemination of propaganda by the alt-right, white nationalists, and international genocide purveyors, those who own and operate the site have known about this and have repeatedly chosen not to address it.

Related: Facebook told us it wasn't a typical big, bad company. It is | Jessica Powell

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Thong protest in Belfast raises concerns over rape trials

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 09:56

Case in Cork sparked outrage after defence barrister referred to complainant’s underwear

It was a mere scrap of fabric, deep blue and edged with lace. But when the legislator Ruth Coppinger drew it from her sleeve and held it up in the Irish parliament this week, the item of women’s underwear caused consternation among her colleagues.

Elsewhere, women took to the streets carrying lingerie. In Cork, dozens of thongs were laid on the steps of the courthouse. In Belfast on Thursday, protesters tied knickers to placards and chanted: “My little black dress does not mean yes.”

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From ghosting to oversharing: the new rules of breakups

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 20:00

Relationship splits are even messier in the online age. When must you change your Facebook status? And who gets custody of Netflix? Here’s all the advice you need

In the early stages of a breakup, going online can feel like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, only instead of waiting artillery there are pictures of your ex, ready to blow you to bits. If there is any animus or unfinished business between you, looking at your ex’s profile is a form of psychic self-mutilation. “It’s called ‘shopping for pain,’’ says Peter Saddington, a counsellor with Relate.

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Free tampons in Victoria's schools promised by Labor as election nears

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 14:22

Daniel Andrews says if party re-elected he will introduce an ‘Australian first’ move

Victorian girls will receive free tampons and pads at state schools, if the Labor party is re-elected to government in the state election in nine days, the premier, Daniel Andrews, announced the policy on Thursday.

“It’s an Australian first. It’s the right thing to do,” Andrews said on Twitter.

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Yes, yes, yes: why female pleasure must be at the heart of sex education

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 01:00
Bring in compulsory sex education classes from the age of four – and end the idea that sex is only about power and pleasure for men

I was given a shell-clasped plastic case in pearly pink. Inside were two sanitary towels so small they could have been used as rugs in a doll’s house, and a leaflet about other sorts of period products. I had started my period at least a year before receiving these treasures. The trinket box was wasted on me, and the conversations about my periods came way too late.

I genuinely don’t remember any other sex education at primary school. By the time they started talking to us about it at secondary school, I think in the third year (year 9), most of the girls in my class had had their first sexual encounters. These were mostly at the Bill Clinton level: not full intercourse, but all the other stuff. The teachers were clearly counting on us not having had intercourse (although some of us had) because our sex education was about Aids (it was the early 90s) and babies. It was essentially a lesson in contraception. I would wager that almost every girl in my class carried a condom in her purse long before she came to this lesson. In fact, we used to keep them as charms to show how grown up we were, accidentally on purpose spilling them out of our bags and pretending to be embarrassed.

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Female prisoners in England left to give birth without midwife, report reveals

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 20:00

Exclusive: research reveals lack of proper medical care for pregnant women and babies in some prisons

Women are giving birth in prison cells without access to proper medical care, according to a startling report shared with the Guardian.

Concerns for the welfare of pregnant women and their babies are raised by a detailed report into experiences in three prisons that highlights cases of women giving births in cells without a midwife present, including one where the baby was premature and born feet-first.

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Politics and science need more women, says Angela Merkel

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 13:26

German chancellor makes speech in Berlin on 100th anniversary of female suffrage

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said that her role as the most powerful woman in Germany should not let society off the hook for the small proportion of women in politics.

As Germany marked the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, Merkel said in a speech in Berlin that there was a lot still to do to achieve gender equality, notably in the worlds of politics, business, science and culture.

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London women tell UN poverty envoy about impact of welfare cuts

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 08:18

Residents of deprived Newham describe domestic abuse and hunger to Philip Alston
UN rapporteur starts UK austerity tour
‘I’m scared to eat sometimes’
‘It’s unfair’: UN envoy meets children in Scotland

Women in London have told the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty they are bearing the brunt of government welfare cuts, and described how austerity has left infants homeless and exacerbated problems including overcrowded housing and domestic violence.

More than a dozen women addressed Philip Alston at a highly charged meeting in Newham, east London, and urged him to tackle British ministers over the disproportionate effects on women of eight years of spending cuts.

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